HC Deb 03 April 1963 vol 675 cc433-4
18. Commander Courtney

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty if the intended building programme of British Polaris submarines will prejudice the fulfilment of the S.S.K. hunter-killer submarine requirement which is necessary for the protection of British shipping throughout the world.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

In the short term I am afraid there must be some prejudice to that programme, but thereafter it will be open to Her Majesty's Govern- ment to make new decisions about the rate at which nuclear hunter-killers should be built.

Commander Courtney

Would my hon. Friend agree that this is a contradiction of his right hon. Friend's undertaking that the Royal Navy's conventional forces would not be sacrificed to the nuclear commitment? Is it a question of money or of building facilities? If it is the latter, would my right hon. Friend look again at the question of giving an order for a few S.S.K.s to one of the Royal Dockyards?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

It is not a question, in the long run, of building facilities. I am sure that these could be achieved, manned and trained. It is, firstly, a question of finance; and I do not think that this contradicts my right hon. Friend's views. In the long run I am sure that we will make up the three hunter-killer submarines which we will lose in the short term.

Mr. Willis

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware of what his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said? He said that other naval decisions would have to be taken on their merits and not in accordance with the Polaris programme. Is this not a case where the Polaris programme is definitely holding up the naval programme?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I have agreed that in the short term we shall lose three hunter-killer submarines. At the same time, we are going ahead with conventional submarines which will give first-class service in the Fleet. There will be 35 in the operational fleet and 12 modern ones in the reserve; and this should be of tremendous use in the next 20 years.